The recent shitstorm over the failure of Colin Kaepernick to stand for the National Anthem is further confirmation that there are a large number of people in the modern USA for whom the concept of freedom, like some people’s concept of free speech, has become highly selective. When they exercise their personal freedoms, no problem. When another person exercises his freedom in a way they don’t like…well, suddenly that person is a lower form of life.
Sorry, but that is a bullshit interpretation of freedom. You don’t get to sit in judgment on others on how they can and should exercise their freedoms. If concepts like freedom and free speech are to be anything other than nice sounding catch-phrases, we have to accept that freedom means that people will routinely do and say things with which we disagree.
Right now, a significant number of people clearly disagree with Colin Kaepernick’s actions. However, they seem to be unable to disagree without being highly disagreeable. Many of them are behaving like assholes. They are talking keyboard-warrior smack, making threats using both indirect and direct speech, and generally talking like over-sensitive macho warriors with an acute case of butthurt.
We control our reaction to those things that others do or say. Right now, many people’s reactions to Colin Kaepernick’s actions remind me of the classic excuse of abusers the world over (“If you had behaved properly, i wouldn’t have had to hit you”). As Robin Skynner, the British psychologist, once said:
If people can’t control their own emotions, then they have to start trying to control other people’s behavior.
The prevailing sentiment of many people opposed to Colin Kaepernick’s actions occupies some weird zone, comprised of a mixture of demanding that he change his behavior (apparently he is not do to that again, ever, and he should be issuing groveling apologies until I decide that he has been sufficiently penitent) and cersorious mean-spirited proposals for draconian punishment (as in, the 49ers are supposed to terminate his contract).
These sort of reactions convince me that many people are indeed unable to control their emotions, which is not a good thing for them. They are the ones that need to be examining their behavior rather than Colin Kapernick, who did nothing wrong by sitting down for the National Anthem.
By the way, if the NFL or any NFL team tries to mandate that players stand, and the case goes to court, the NFL and/or the clubs may well lose, based on previous SCOTUS rulings that nobody can be forced to stand for or recite an anthem or pledge. The lack of constitutional validity for demanding fealty to symbols (already established by SCOTUS rulings that nobody may be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance) may well override any attempt by NFL teams to mandate standing for the National Anthem. This sort of mandatory fealty that some people are expecting or demanding is, in my non-lawyer opinion, unconstitutional, and it should remain that way, since the only governments that mandate such fealty are dictatorships.
Various people, including Drew Brees, have explained carefully why they think Colin Kaepernick’s action was incorrect. I happen to disagree with Drew Brees, for several reasons, but he was polite and careful in his comments, so I have no problem with his position. I have a big problem with the juvenile, potty-mouthed asshats who seem to comprise the majority of the online mob that seems to be convincing themselves that Colin Kaepernick is the personification of un-American Evil. Those people are unserious, have nothing useful to say, listening to them is a waste of my time, and if they continue to pollute my Facebook wall with drivel, they will be disappearing off my Friends list in short order. Or, to return to where I came in…freedom gives people the right to behave like juvenile asshats. It also gives me the right to ignore them or remove them from my online world.
UPDATE – Ken White over at Popehat articulates a lot of my objections quite eloquently.